Readers, We need your feedback: Cover the Edmonds City Council communications meeting, or let them work it out in peace?

There’s no way to sugarcoat this. At times, the Edmonds City Council has had difficulty getting along  — with each other, and with staff.

As a result, the council has hired a consultant — Jim Reid of the Falconer Group – to conduct a workshop on council/staff communications. That meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, April 23, from 8:30 a.m.-noon in the Brackett Room, third floor of City Hall.

Since it is a public meeting, it is open to the public. And the media. But because it is being held in the Brackett Room, the meeting is not accessible for city videotaping, which is only available in the Council chambers.

My Edmonds News was asked by a few citizens if we were planning to cover this meeting. We are considering the possibility of videotaping it ourselves, which we have every right as a media outlet to do. We believe this is preferable to taking notes and writing a story, because it would provide a clear picture — without interpretation — of the process. In addition, there are no microphones in the Brackett Room, so it’s not always easy for members of the audience to hear the discussion.

However, there are those who think the council would be better off to conduct this process as privately as possible in a public meeting setting — that councilmembers won’t be as open with each other if they know the meeting is being taped. This sentiment has been expressed not only by at least one councilmember, but also by a citizen who usually never misses a meeting.

So, what do you say, My Edmonds News readers? We will take your feedback into consideration as we make our decision.

Teresa Wippel, Publisher

 

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24 Comments

  1. Part of the issue is that each individual council member has their own view of the future of Edmonds, and many are not willing to share that vision with the general public or each other. If they do share with each other and are not in sinc then that is where the politics come in. In past councils many were very willing to discuss their vision and let the public weigh in on the issues. Those days are gone and we have a new conflict brewing almost every week. This consultant has and will meet with council individually as well as staff and the mayor. They have had their private time and now the public can see some of the results with this meeting.

    On a positive note, the public has already set a course of some of all this with their work on the Strategic Plan. The public wants among other things: Transparency, Budget by Priorities, and Project Accountability. If the council were to work on these issues with the help of the citizens we would slowly smoke out some of the conflict issues and find better ways to govern ourselves.

  2. After voting the screen showed the current vote count. How can we monitor the results with out voting more than once if that is even possible.

  3. Sorry, found the link lower on the screen

  4. Teresa, I think this meeting is more accurately described as a Workshop on Communications and Collaboration involving the Edmonds City Council, Mayor, and Leadership Team, as opposed to an Edmonds City Council Communications Meeting.

    I was just preparing to ask you to post my following commentary when I saw your article. As such, I will just post my commentary as a reply to your article. Here goes:

    The working relationship between the Edmonds City Council, Mayor Earling and the City’s Staff/Leadership Team is at a critical juncture. Conflict and tension is often at display during City Council Meetings and trust appears to have been impaired.

    It seems that the City Council catches most of the blame from citizens when things don’t go well. My opinion is that this blame is very incomplete and that responsibility rests more broadly – on the shoulders of the Edmonds City Council, Mayor Earling and the City’s Staff/Leadership Team. Active, involved citizens may have an impact also.

    I may be misguided, but I believe the compensation level of the related parties is an interesting concept to consider related to responsibility. I believe the 2014 City of Edmonds’ budget allows for an average annual City Council Member salary of only $12,343. If a Council Member works roughly 25-30 hours a week on City issues, they are probably being paid below minimum wage for their hard work. As a contrast, the annual salaries for Mayor Earling and his one executive assistant are budgeted at $192,115 for 2014. City of Seattle Council Members salaries are set at over $117,000 per year in 2014.

    The Association of Washington Cities provides a Mayor’s Handbook. In the introduction it states that a Mayor needs “to listen to the residents of the city and to the council, develop goals, then work effectively with the council to achieve your objectives.”

    Chapter 4 of the Mayor’s Handbook is titled “The Mayor’s Leadership Role”. The Mayor is the political head of the City and is expected to provide the leadership necessary to keep it moving in the proper direction. Chapter 4 mentions that the “role of the city council in any size of city is becoming more demanding and complex. In order to get anything accomplished, elected officials must work together to define and agree upon mutual goals. This is one of the most challenging aspects of being a mayor and working with a city council.”

    Chapter 7 of the Mayor’s Handbook is titled “Resolving and Preventing Mayor-Council Conflict”. The chapter includes helpful pointers from other Washington Mayors, including:

    “A mayor needs to be open and honest, giving councilmembers all the background information they need on issues. Don’t do things behind people’s backs. Keep everyone informed.”

    My opinion is that complete, accurate information is not always provided the City Council Members before and/or during City Council meetings. For example, a presentation was recently made by City Staff that represented the City’s right-of-way easement along Sunset Avenue ends 18 – 24″ east of the existing sidewalk. I fear this may not be true. Why should Council Members and citizens even have to spend one second wondering if this type of information is truthful? How much City Council Member time is wasted trying to determine whether or not they have been provided complete, accurate information?

    Executive Sessions are another place where Council Members must be provided complete, accurate information by staff and the City’s legal advisors. I am greatly concerned about this as well as the frequency of Executive Sessions.

    An article documenting how the Chicago based National Association of Realtors (NAR) helped secure Mayor Earling’s victory in the most recent Mayoral Election contains a quote that alleges that the former Mayor of Edmonds had a confrontational relationship with the City Council but that now that tension is gone. I believe the NAR provided an independent expenditure donation of over $26,000 during Mayor Earling’s campaign.

    I do not know why the NAR felt the need to discuss the former Mayor in its article and represent that now the tension is gone.

    My opinion is that the tension between Mayor and City Council is not gone. To the contrary, it may have grown. Fortunately, the City Council exhibited leadership earlier this year by charging its Personnel Committee to identify a consultant to work with the Council, Mayor, and leadership team to create effective government. Hopefully tensions will soon start to ease following the very important Special Meeting scheduled for April 23, 2014. This Workshop on Communications and Collaboration will be facilitated by Jim Reid of the Falconer Group and it involves the Edmonds City Council, Mayor, and Leadership Team.

    More information can be found at the following link on the City’s website:

    http://www.edmondswa.gov/government/public-involvement/public-notices/meeting-agendas-and-materials.html

    One will need to click on the April 23, 2014 City Council Special Meeting link to see the related information.

  5. When the government starts having secret meetings for the good of the people, its a slipperly slope into socialism, fascism and communism. If the council members are so incapable of getting along with each other, it is more endemic of them as individuals. Democracy should prevail in this country.

  6. I heartily agree with comments by Darroll Haug– they very adequately capture the core issues involved. In my judgement, the Council should be left alone in the work session with consultant–ie: no videotaping; if individual members of the public are concerned and interested enough in these matters they should avail themselves for the ‘public meeting’. This is much more beneficial than just sitting at home and expecting to be ‘spoon fed’ this stuff via media. Bottom line: if you’re concerned about Edmonds, show up.

  7. I would say $25,000 is clearly OVER THE TOP amount of $$$$$ when one looks at the other small donations for other candidates……..and the fact that this is a very SMALL town. I originally thought the amount was $19,000…..EITHER amount is OBSCENE. And what do we need people in Chicago, this many states away, “targeting” our voters/citizens……Like Chicago (especially right now) is a good example?

    MILLIONS of dollars are being thrown around for projects the public does not want nor need. ……….I guess somebody wants those projects, so I guess I question who that is…….It does not appear to be the CITIZENS which the government here is supposed to be WORKING FOR, not against.

    It’s also getting a little tiring listening to people trashing the City Council over and over……They’re not the problem!……and THAT is quite obvious……I have read the Washington State Mayor’s book and the Washington State City Council book

    I would also like to add that this newspaper needs to be less biased regarding the title of this article. We would like to see both of the newspapers for Edmonds not to be so clearly biased

  8. First, the workshop is not about interpersonal conflicts among Council members, or between Council and staff. The workshop is intended to deal with the fallout — because of political differences — among the elected officials, Mayor and Council members.

    Second, in our continuing efforts towards open government, the meeting should be recorded. Our bosses, those who elect us, have a right to monitor our work.

  9. I have a slightly different regarding media coverage of the upcoming workshop. I might suggest that you pose the question to the city council members and see whether they believe that the workshop should be covered.

    I would also like to let your readers know the services offered by the Falconer Group: Strategic Planning, Leadership / Organizational Development and Conflict Resolution. I understand, from the Falconer Group’s website, that Jim Reid personalizes his approach to the needs of a given group. From prior experience working with consultants, I know that a number consultants use a “one size fits all” template. I am glad Mr. Reid takes a more flexible approach.

    I interested in finding out Jim Reid’s scope of work for the workshop if it is permissible for that sort of information to be released to the general public. Thank you.

  10. A concept key to a successful City Government is the full appreciation that the Citizens are at the top of the City’s Organizational Chart.

    Mayor Earling’s 2014 budget proposal included the City’s Organizational Chart. It can be found at the following link to the City’s website:

    http://www.edmondswa.gov/images/COE/Government/Departments/Administrative_Services/Finance/Budget/2014/2014_Proposed_Budget_Document_10-01-13.pdf

    The City of Edmond’s Organizational Chart is found on page 13 of the Mayor’s October 1, 2013 budget proposal.

  11. We just need those in our government (including staff) that are running rough-shod over the citizens to start listening to what the citizens have to say and what THEY want because we are at the top and again., the govt works for US……and by the way., absolute power corrupts absolutely

  12. Barbara,

    Here is a link to the description of the workshop. Be sure to read the attachments, as the scope of work is explained.

    http://agenda.ci.edmonds.wa.us/agenda_publish.cfm?mt=ALL&get_month=4&get_year=2014&dsp=ag&seq=986

    As all meetings of your elected officials, this is an open public meeting.

  13. Still looking for the client list of the Falconer Group, as it appears to me (anyway) that the problem really is about political differences, perhaps I’m wrong…….just checking and double-checking……

    …..everything always seems to be about politics always now……That’s how machines keep well oiled and running……politics. A sociologist professor at the University of Washington wrote a whole book on this (can’t remember his name, maybe Chambliss, William, William Chambliss(sp) right now) in regards to the politics and corruption of 1970s Seattle and how it worked for so long, from bottom to top. His research started in China-town in Seattle (Wah Mee Club) and how a system worked in Seattle for so long. Everybody gave him information because they knew he was a sociologist and would only use the information for his papers and research. There was much learned from his research.

  14. Good morning,

    I would like to thank Council member Bloom for providing me with the agenda and background documents for tomorrow’s workshop. I suggest that anyone interested in learning more should follow the link cited in Ms. Bloom’s comment above.

    With respect to Ms. Ryder’s request to see a list of the Falconer Group’s clients, here is the link: http://www.falconergroup.net/clients/strategic-planning/ .

    Ms. Ryder brings up an important issue. When I worked for King County Government, I was on a team that was responsible for selecting a consulting company to assist staff in the upgrade of the county’s Oracle Financial System. For each consulting company that responded to our Request for Proposal (RFP), I called former clients to measure each consultant’s performance on projects. The telephone interviews were quite helpful in evaluating the various consultants.

  15. Yes, thank you Ms. Tipton for the link

  16. Sad to say, Mr. Chambliss passed away recently. Here is a link to this great sociologist:

    http://www.socialsciencespace.com/2014/02/never-afraid-of-living-william-chambliss-1933-2014/

  17. Hi Teresa – Have you made a decision about videotaping? Thanks.

    • We do plan to videotape and will make it available as soon as we can.

  18. Great – thank you! I was just headed down – but will stay home and work now that I know I can watch later. Much appreciated. Hopefully the meeting will be very helpful and productive.

  19. Sitting at the meeting as I type. Interesting meeting and the tape will help all see the discussion but watching the interaction is best in person. For most of the time there has only been 1 or 2 people from the public attending. MEN is also present doing the taping. A 3rd person has arrived with an hour to go. Time will tell how useful this session is but it appears that the presence of a camera and the public is NOT inhibiting good discussion. Thanks to MEN for covering this event.

  20. Hi Teresa – any estimate when the videotape might be available? Thanks.

  21. Hi Teresa – was Tuesday’s communications workshop with Jim Reid of the Falconer Group, from 2-5 p.m. in the Brackett Room videotaped?

    • I was not able to tape that session as Harry Gatjens, who has been doing it, was unavailable.

  22. I should have asked you ahead of time. I wish I had attended and not assumed you would be there to videotape. Thanks for doing so in the past.

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